- Right now, inflation is high, rents are high, and gas prices are high – and people aren’t happy.
- Republicans are hammering Democrats on the economy as we approach midterm.
- This is the worst time for Democrats, who have struggled to convince voters relief is coming.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that one thing will dictate the midterm elections: Americans’ pocketbooks.
Poll after poll shows voters are extremely concerned about the economy, and they think Republicans are more likely to address it. This is bad news for Democrats, who are fighting to maintain a narrow majority in a painful economic context.
Inflation is still high, with the core consumer price index, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, hitting a 40-year high in September. A gallon of regular gasoline will cost around $3.76, down from $3.40 a year ago — and more than $5 in California. At the same time, a typical American would have to work 64.2 hours a week to pay their rent. Home ownership doesn’t seem too feasible either.
All of these negative economic indicators are weighing heavily on Americans and come at an inopportune time for Democrats. Although they have won some economic gains, the picture is still bleak and could only get worse as the likelihood of a recession in 2023 intensifies. For Democrats, who still hold a slim majority in the House and Senate, soaring prices could not only eat away at their pocketbooks — it could cost them the election.
“Basically, the Democrats are in a difficult position here, because this is a really difficult problem to solve, and there is no easy political solution here,” said Max Berger, a political organizer and consultant who previously worked for Elizabeth Warren’s campaign and the Justice Democrats. , said Insider. “There’s definitely a lot more they could do and a lot more they could talk about that would put them on the offensive.”
After a summer where abortion rights, student debt forgiveness and a long-awaited victory in the form of the Cut Inflation Act dominated the headlines, negative economic forces are once again dominating. the minds of voters. Only recently have Democrats turned to cuts to Social Security and Medicare as a key election issue. And Biden continues to hammer at the oil companies, saying soaring gas prices are their fault. Otherwise, Democratic messaging has been mostly silent on the big economic issues of inflation and the housing market.
“A month ago, Democrats had the inside lane to continue their leadership,” Alice Stewart, a veteran Republican strategist for multiple presidential campaigns and CNN political commentator, told Insider. “Fast forward to today, Republicans have been steadfast and determined to campaign on the economy, inflation, and crime again and again.”
Republicans are “laser focused” on the economy and its impact on Americans, according to Stewart, and they’re “sending the message that Republicans have a better answer to dealing with the economy and inflation — and the current direction is leading us into a bad economic situation.”
That works. Voters particularly concerned about the economy lean towards the Republicans. That leads to a potentially messy midterm season for the slim majority of Democrats. The economy still feels bad, and it’s the worst possible time at a crucial juncture for Democrats.
Republicans capture how bad Americans feel about the economy
The Inflation Reduction Act is about to bring inflation down a bit, but it hasn’t done so yet. Other measures, such as the taxation of corporate excess profits, have proven difficult to implement. With the promise of distant relief, the lack of messaging from Democrats about what they have achieved could be a recipe for disaster.
Democrats have “largely remained silent on the main issue of the day, which is a real problem for them in the run-up to midterm elections, which are usually referendums on the ruling party,” Robert Blizzard said. , a Republican pollster. This does not bode well for decisive, independent voters.
With inflation still high and gas prices gobbling up big chunks of paychecks, the president’s message that the economy is ‘strong as hell’ is ‘not a message that I think , rings true with most voters,” Blizzard said.
There is a feeling that because the inflation story is still not positive, Democrats can sidestep the issue and people won’t notice, Sarah Baron – the campaign manager for the left-leaning Unrig Our Economy party, who tried to get the message out that Republicans and Congress have rigged the economy in the name of the wealthy and corporations – told Insider.
“That’s not how it works. We’re all human beings,” she said. “We will reflect on our day-to-day challenges when making a decision on who we want to represent.”
It’s probably too late for Democrats to change the game
Time is running out as early voters are already flocking to the polls. Even as Democrats pull Barack Obama to try to secure votes, they are still entering the home stretch without a cohesive message on the economy. Instead, they look to an age-old political fight and warn of possible Republican cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
Berger doubts the Democrats even have a strategy around the economy.
“If tomorrow the Democrats were to come out with a clear message on the economy and inflation, that would make a difference,” he said. “But I don’t know other than the president who really has the power to do it, and I don’t think there’s really consensus on the political solution.”
For Blizzard, the Republican pollster, it is too late to turn the tide: “This election is on”. Unless something “historic” happens next week, the midterm results won’t change for Democrats.
Baron is a bit more optimistic. She thinks it’s never too late, but there’s no time to go back and forth on what people want to hear. Democrats must use the next few days to show they are fighting for workers and boasting about their record.
“Ignoring the key issues that impact voters is not the answer. Offering solutions to change things is the answer, and that’s how you get voters,” said Stewart, the Republican strategist. “Democrats completely ignored the economy and inflation at their peril.”
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